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Justice Department Braces for Rise in Violent Crime

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Yet the federal government, for all its vast investigative powers, plays a supporting role in the case of fighting street crime. The Justice Department prosecutes major drug and weapons trafficking cases, provides technical support on gun tracing and the evaluation of other evidence, and distributes billions in grants to complement the budgets of local departments which can be mainly paid for by area taxpayers.

Over the past yr, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has announced a series of steps intended to bolster efforts to counter rising crime rates, encouraged by a White House anxious concerning the dire political implications of the perception that they’re letting the situation spiral uncontrolled.

They include the creation of 5 “strike forces” that work with local law enforcement to disrupt firearms trafficking; a Drug Enforcement Administration initiative to combat drug-related violent crime and take care of overdose deaths in 34 cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Memphis and Detroit; a $139 million initiative to rent 1,000 officers at understaffed local departments; and a rule that effectively bans the production and sale of homemade “ghost guns,” that are fueling gun violence on the West Coast.

In December, Congress provided $1.6 billion in additional funding for departments and community groups to handle violent crime and community justice. The associate attorney general, Vanita Gupta, who has tried to balance support of local law enforcement with the administration’s social justice agenda, oversees a few of those initiatives.

There has also been an uptick in prosecutions. Over the past few weeks, the department has brought a series of major gun cases, including an indictment against an illegal weapons dealer in Texas who sold 75 guns that were subsequently connected to homicides, drug deals and other crimes.

But the most important recent boost, from the department’s perspective, may be among the many least flashy: the confirmations of U.S. attorneys whose nominations had previously been blocked by Republicans within the Senate, providing frontline federal prosecutors with more stability in aggressively pursuing cases. Certainly one of them is Jacqueline C. Romero, the brand new head of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which incorporates Philadelphia, who took over the office shortly before Ms. Monaco’s visit.

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